As the grid transforms, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are playing an increasingly important role in electricity production. Especially solar energy and electricity are needed on many occasions nowadays, and it is difficult for us to leave electronic products, so backup power is particularly important.
Energy storage systems have emerged as an ideal alternative. Batteries store electricity and deliver it to the grid during periods of low wind and sun or peak demand for electricity. A more daily energy storage product is a solar generator, which is a combination of a portable power station and a solar panel. It is also very convenient to carry and is the best choice for outdoor travel.
In addition to supporting renewable energy generation facilities to provide electricity, a battery storage system is used to keep the lights on.
Rolling and prolonged blackouts are becoming more common in some areas due to extreme weather, wildfires, and aging grid infrastructure.
Energy storage plays a key role in making the grid more resilient to these power failures.
While energy storage systems have become an important part of the grid, multiple fires at large battery storage facilities have raised safety concerns about battery storage systems.
Failure to address this safety issue will not only hinder the growth of the energy storage industry and slow down the transition to net zero goals, but also expose people to the threat of blackouts and restrictions. So, what steps does the battery storage industry need to take to reduce fire risks?
Fire Safety Challenges in the Battery Energy Storage Industry
Comments on fire safety in the battery storage industry are usually limited to one key challenge: the thermal runaway of batteries. Thermal runaway is a phenomenon in which a battery generates heat faster than it can dissipate it. While the topic of battery thermal runaway has dominated the conversation, the reality is much more complicated.
Energy storage systems are complex systems that require broader systems-level thinking. When engineers consider the sources of fire risk, they typically look at the problem from a macro perspective, which includes both human and environmental factors that contribute to significant fire risk.
This clarity goes beyond focusing on the issue of thermal runaway and is therefore the root cause of the need to allow the battery storage industry to address fire risks.
Engineers are designing stronger safety features for battery storage systems to address a wider range of risks.
Development of fire safety standards and testing
This expanded focus is reflected in the development of new fire safety standards governing the energy storage industry.
Energy storage providers seek safety certifications to give customers confidence that the battery storage systems they purchase comply with industry best practices.
To date, core standards and test methods (including the UL9540 standard and UL9540A standard) have mainly focused on the thermal runaway risk of single cells.
However, recent industry practice has shifted the focus to broader energy storage fire testing, no longer limited to testing for thermal runaway of a single battery, thus requiring battery manufacturers to conduct thermal runaway testing of multiple batteries.
By 2023, we will likely see additional efforts to enhance this broader systems-level thinking.
For example, there is an increasing need for heat flux analysis and attention to the impact of explosion protection systems on fire dynamics and spread.
While formulating product standards, relevant fire protection regulations are being developed to cover the entire life cycle of energy storage systems, including all links from design, construction, power station balancing, and commissioning to operation, maintenance, and decommissioning.
These fire codes require compliance with many other standards, including electrical safety (NFPA 70/NEC), alarming and detection (NFPA 72), fire suppression (NFPA 13 and NFPA 15), and explosion protection (NFPA 68 and NFPA 69).
More Than Mandatory
Meeting and exceeding fire safety standards require rigorous testing, sometimes even deliberate ignition of batteries in battery storage systems.
Performing these tests can provide manufacturers, first responders, and energy storage asset owners with important information about how battery storage systems would respond in the highly unlikely event of a catastrophic failure. For the most accurate results, energy storage suppliers should complete worst-case field tests rather than calculations or simulations.
Some energy storage manufacturers also choose to complete testing beyond the mandatory requirements to provide customers and stakeholders with additional assurance of the safety of the energy storage system.
The industry’s model fire codes (IFC and NFPA 855 and the state codes they adopt) require testing to UL 9540A. Still, safety-conscious energy storage manufacturers have expanded their testing beyond the thermal runaway.
In some cases, they also attempt to verify through comprehensive testing that the battery storage system is equipped with an explosion protection system.
Work With Regulators And First Responders
The energy storage industry is also increasing its communication with local regulators responsible for enforcing safety regulations.
In many cases, some regulatory officials believe they do not have enough information to understand the causes and effects of energy storage fires, let alone provide solutions.
Energy storage providers are working with nonprofits and trade groups to standardize best practices and disseminate knowledge to regulators everywhere.
Likewise, energy storage system suppliers need to work with fire departments, subject matter experts, and first responders to conduct emergency preparedness training.
The Energy Storage Industry Needs To Pay Attention To Fire Safety
If the US is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and increase grid resiliency, it will need to deploy 100GW of energy storage in less than 10 years. With the proliferation of energy storage systems.
More battery storage systems will be deployed in urban areas and densely populated communities, making fire safety a higher priority.
By articulating the challenges facing the energy storage industry, developing fire safety standards, and working more closely with regulators, the energy storage industry can address safety concerns, simplify project development, and ensure the grid is supported by batteries.
In the energy storage industry, if we want to go further, we cannot avoid safety issues, so we never stop on the way to solving safety problems. We adhere to our original intention and continue to improve our products to reach the safest stage. We hope that safety issues can be resolved. completely eradicated.
Manufacturers of solar generators will spare no effort to overcome these safety issues.